Writing process

I’ve always been a morning and night person – but I can’t burn the candle at both ends when writing – so there was a choice and I chose mornings.

Writing days start at four or five am. There is no alarm. No other person. I wake. Get coffee. Start. That quick. And if I do, an illusion works its magic. Outside is dark. Silent. Or nature silent. Wherever I am on the planet. And the magic is that the internet doesn’t exist. Isn’t on. Doesn’t work. It is of course, (usually) but I don’t touch it. I just get on with the work and that’s the magic. I type and type and the sun comes up and I type and type some more and some more (I won’t lie, there may be a nap, 2.5 coffees in total) and then I stop around 11 am, sometimes 2pm if I’m lucky and it’s a power through day. But usually, I’m done before midday. The naps are like pillows. Inviting. First one 7.30 or so. No more than 20 minutes. There used to be 5k runs, but they break the rhythm – too much lost in prep, activity, shower – so they come later now. I love morning runs, but mornings are brain time, so best spent with the page.

A six-day week. One two-day break a month. A week off every three months. Each trip away three to six months. So far, it’s been Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, Lamu (Kenya), Tobago, Bali, Tokyo (shorter), Tbilisi in Georgia (the country).

Rest days and weeks off are a struggle. A big chunk of struggle. I don’t want to stop. But rest sustains. Rest produces productivity. Duration and pacing let me continue. Otherwise the steam falls, and out of steam is meh. If ideas come in downtime. Note in the phone. Any idea, any time. Note in the phone.

On days where the words don’t come (rare, but tiredness, bad sleep, garden blowers, all things can happen), I just do other work. Research, editing, planning – if it’s helping, it’s writing. A close friend, Richard, who got me into running in Durban said before we set out, “keep moving, if you are moving” (i.e. walking) “it’s still running”. Such great advice, because the heaving heavy puffing eases and the runs run if you keep moving. For me, writing a book or any project, is just the same. If you’re working on an element, any element – even rest, that’s progress.

Pets may come to join me. My preference is not when working. They are a distraction like anything else (unless it’s one of those cats who know perfect distance, perfect timing – those serene tail and minded beasts).

I sometimes listen to music I know well, particularly if I’m having a first draft blast, like now. It sits as background. Let’s you get on. The playlist I use is primarily the game soundtrack to Battlefield One (game music is designed to keep you focused). I’ve listened to it hundreds of times – the artists are namechecked at the back of Teufel’s first book and probably will be for books 2 and 3 too.

Later in the day, after chores or whatever’s needed, there will be a run or a walk – usually listening to music I know well too (in lockdown Hamilton, the last month of the Tbilisi trip, Lana Del Ray’s newly released Norman Rockwell, recently her last two albums too). Ideas bubble and form in the brain-quiet their craft creates. Solutions arrive. Options swirl. I love it.